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Samson: Judges 13–16

Samson wasn’t the son many of us would wish on the children of your worst enemies: cruel, disrespectful, wanton, and quite possibly friendless, even while ‘judging’ Israel for 20 years.

His ‘judging’ was unlikely to have been any sort of leadership. There’s no evidence that Israel turned back to God. Samson’s main contribution seems to have been killing Philistines, even more in his death than in his life, and that was for his own ends rather than for God’s glory or Israel’s survival.

It probably wasn’t God’s Plan A for Samson, the man who’d been set aside as a Nazarite from before birth. It probably wasn’t even Plan B, C or D. But it was well within God’s ability to take something bad and use it anyway. There was still an intention to set Israel free from the Philistines, and Samson did that for at least 20 years, and for who-knows-how long after his death.

Samson’s wasn’t an exemplary life.

Before the 20 years of peace started, Samson’s own people didn’t support him. They were all too ready to hand him over to the Philistines rather than defend him:

Judges 15:12-13 But the men of Judah told him, ‘We have come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines … We will only tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines … We won’t kill you.’ So they tied him up with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.

Even after he defeated the Philistine army, and brought peace to Israel, there’s no suggestion he married and settled down. It’s hard to imagine any caring father wanting his daughter to marry Samson—a man who’d broken almost all of the requirements of the Nazarite vows as well as many of the Levitical rules.

So he was left with visiting prostitutes in Gaza for company, eventually falling ‘in love’ with one of them.

This was the famous Delilah, who stripped him of his last sign of his standing with God: perhaps physically (by cutting his hair) as well metaphorically (the spirit of God left him).

From leader to grinding grain

The once great Samson was reduced to grinding grain for Israel’s enemies:

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